Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Ray Martinez testified before federal lawmakers on a number of trucking regulations May 22, including the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate as well as efforts to prevent states from creating a patchwork of meal and rest rules for interstate truck drivers. The testimony was part of a larger hearing examining motor carrier provisions in the last highway bill known as the FAST Act.
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Administrator Martinez said that the recent ELD mandate ensures that truck drivers are “on a level playing field” and would allow the agency to evaluate truck driver Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules to determine if any modifications were necessary.
“We look at any issue through the lens of safety,” Martinez testified. “The ELD is a great first step; [it] puts folks on a level playing field. Now let’s look at the Hours of Service and see if they need some modifications. What would be acceptable? They have to be clear rules with flexibility.”
Responding to a question from Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) regarding California’s requirement that truck drivers be paid for meal and rest breaks, Administrator Martinez said the agency would seek uniformity on hours-of-service rules.
“I can’t imagine how much more complicated [Hours of Service] would be if states adopted their own meal and rest breaks — not just for trucking but also for the enforcement community. I would be very cautious of going into a scenario where we’d have 50 states with a patchwork. From a regulatory point of view, it would be a complicating factor. From the regulatory perspective uniformity would be sought.”
Rep. Denham has previously introduced an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill to standardize the meal and rest break provisions for truck drivers by requiring all states to follow the federal HOS regulations. That amendment, which is a top legislative priority for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), was approved by a bipartisan 222-193 vote in the House and is currently awaiting Senate action.
In addition to ELDs and HOS, lawmakers asked Administrator Martinez about a number of other trucking-related issues, including CSA and sleep apnea, as well as last year’s breach of the agency’s Medical Examiner Registry.
Administrator Martinez’s testimony came the same day that the House Appropriations Committee expressed concern over how ELD devices are affecting the industry as well as concern for allowing heavier trucks on federal highways.
Appropriators asked DOT for a report on the ELD rule’s implementation stating, "That report should address the need to stop in proximity to destinations, rest area availability, and how the department will work with state and local partners on enforcement. Finally, the report should include recommendations on how the department can better implement ELDs to prevent a disruption to the many industries that depend on commercial trucks for the movement of freight and goods."
Regarding heavier trucks, the report accompanying the fiscal 2019 transportation spending bill said that a significant increase in federal truck size could create greater funding needs and cost implications should be weighed by the Department and Congress before any change in national policy is considered.
Both of these appropriations instructions are not yet final and will remain subject to continuing negotiations.
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